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Letter to the Editor
Re:  SEN  Scoring System

Posted March 15, 2002
Editor’s Note: We received the following letter to the editor from Denise deWet, President of the International Saddle Seat Equitation Association regarding the SEN Judging System. To learn more about the SEN system, visit, Lynda Freseth’s website for Hollow Haven farm, where much more detailed information is available.
Dear Editor,

I have read with great interest the excellent article by Christy Howard Parsons and would like to add some thoughts to it.

A fact, which may not be common knowledge in the U.S.A. is that this numerical system of judging was originally developed in South Africa by the Riding Horse Judges’ Association in an effort to educate both the judges and the riders on how to judge workouts objectively.  I was one of the panel of judges working on it and therefore know the history intimately.

The South African Amateur Saddle Horse Union started using the system in 1994 and in 1996 we took it with us to the first Saddle Seat Equitation World Cup competition which was held in Louisville, Ky.  We had explained it to Anne Judd, the organizer of that competition when she had been to South Africa previously and she enthusiastically agreed to use it in Louisville.  On our arrival there we found that Nealia McCracken had expertly developed a computerized scoring system based on our system. However, she had introduced a 5 point interval between riders. After that competition, the judges Fern Bittner, Calvin Hanson and Johan Bosch and all other interested parties agreed that the interval was not ideal and that a straight numerical application of points would be better.

This system was used very successfully at both the 1998 and 2000 World Cup competitions.  And since 1995 all equitation competitions, from the smallest to our National Trials are judged on the numerical system  --- hence our judges are all “au fait “ with the system.

America has now implemented the “bracket system” which probably helps a judge. South Africa is not using that although many judges find it a useful “tool” in their unofficial paperwork.

Facing exactly the same problems of practical application and human error, the South Africans are also constantly striving to streamline the system.  Another problem area is the wide discrepancy between judges’ scores. Some judges tend to score very low, others very high.  Although this makes no difference as long as the judge consistently scores in that mode, it does confuse many parents who simply look at a scoresheet and say “  Judge X does not like us”  Also, in a team competition, a judge may wilfully allocate higher scores, keeping within the framework of his eventual placings, of those members of a team he favors   ---  Politics rears it’s ugly head again!  With strict numerical judging, this could have an influence on the outcome of the competition.

To eradicate this, Tina de Jager has devised an alteration to the system which has been successfully used locally since 1999. In a 3-judge system, the judges still allocate numerical scores and each rider’s score for railwork and individual workout is totalled and placed on that judge’s card from highest to lowest. This represents placings and may or may not differ on each of the three cards.

A results card, similar to that used for all Hi-Low judging is drawn up with a column for each of the judges and the numbers of their highest scoring rider down to the lowest one are entered. Now apply the Hi-Low system. Break any tie situations with the accepted methods or alternately look at the final work-out scores to determine the winner.

In a team competition the placing received by each rider of a team will be added together and the team with the lowest score is the winner.

This system can also be adapted for use in competitions judged by 4 or 5 judges.

There is still place for human error. The scribes have to remain focused so as not to miss a segment or allocate a wrong score. Human error can occur with the entering of the scores on the computer although all scores entered should be double checked and, of course, judging remains a subjective skill.

It is heartening to know that equitation enthusiasts on both sides of the Atlantic are constantly striving to perfect the system.

Denise de Wet
Honorary Secretary:  Riding Horse Judges’ Association of S.A.
President:  I.S.S.E.A.

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